Road trip day 6 :: Mont Saint Michel; then, now, next

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Two years ago I visited Mont Saint Michel with a good friend. We were staying at Saint Malo and took the train to Pontorson then hired bikes to cycle the rest of the way. By chance the day we were to visit was the same day the Tour de France was going to go right by Mont Saint Michel so we raced it, so to speak, to catch the cyclists as they flew by. We then cycled the rest of the way, right up to to island, to take a look.

That was then.
One of the most striking features of the abbey is the isolation from the mainland that happens when the tide comes in and floods the causeway, built in 1879, completely surrounding the island by water. However, studies conducted in 1995 revealed that if the ecosystem was to be left as it was, by 2040 the entire bay of Mont Saint Michel would be covered in sediment and turn to marshlands and the original isolating spirit of Mont Saint Michel would be lost.
Since 2009 plans have been underway to restore the Mont Saint Michel bay to its original and natural state. A dam has been built at the opening of the Couesnon river that will help push sand from the estuary back out to sea and since August last year the 130 year-old causeway has been closed to the public.
Now visitors to Mont Saint Michel are now required to park their vehicles or bicycles in the new reception car park and journey the rest of the way to the island either by complementary shuttle-bus, as we did on day 6 of our trip, or on foot - by foot takes approximately 40 minutes. As you approach the Mont you can see the skeleton of the new jetty and bridge as they are taking form.


By the end of 2014 the new one-kilometre-long causeway and its 750m bridge will be completed, which will allow water to flow freely underneath when the tide comes in surrounding the Mont and for a couple of hours in the day the causeway and bridge will be flooded. To be able to visit the island it will still be required to take a shuttle-bus, but from architectures' impressions of the work the jetty and bridge will look so charming that the stroll to the Mont will be a part of the pleasure of the visit. As the bridge will curve slightly, you will see the different perspectives and outlines of the Mont so that every 20 metres or so its form will take on a new shape and different features of its architecture will become visible. It would also be so impressive to approach via foot and cross the bay over the water, especially if the tide is coming in, to appreciate the true freak of nature that the island is.
In 2015 the original causeway, over a century old, will be dismantled and the work will have been completed. Environmentalists predict that it will take still a few more years following for the bay to naturally return to its original state.


I know another trip will have to be scheduled for two years time to see the work completed and to appreciate Mont Saint Michel just as the monks that built it did, some 13 hundred years ago. 

After Mont Saint Michel we stopped briefly for a somber moment at the D-Day beaches lookout over Arromanches-les-Bains before we continued to Deauville and Trouville for our last night away. 


xx

More information on access to Mont Saint Michel can be found here; accueilmontsaintmichel.fr
For further details on the works, see here; projetmontsaintmichel.fr 

4 comments :

  1. Your trip seems to be telling me that I have a lot of revisits to do. First Reims, now Mont St Michel, and Arromanches next. Time lapse since last visit: 12 years, 7 years, and 13 years. /whistles

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    1. 13 years Lil?! That's a long time! I'd hold out for when Mont Saint Michel's finished, it's going to be great! xx

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    2. And that was my very first trip to France actually! We were at Arromanches, Bayeux, and Paris. I'll save Mont St Michel for later then, maybe when I hit a decade of anniversairy :P

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    3. Ah, ok, so you are one up on me, I haven't been to Bayeaux! We couldn't make it on this trip but I'm dying to see the tapestry! Yes, a decade-later trip to the Mont would be perfect! Might see you there (but hopefully before, yes?!) xx

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